Animal TestingMedicines, household products, food, and basically everything involved in thelife of an average person has to under go a form of testing before it is legalto be placed on a shelf and if available to the public. The same tests areperformed on every medical procedure that is introduced to surgeons. Since theonly way to directly mimic the human body is to use it itself, scientists wereforced to find the closest and best alternative.
That is where animals wereintroduced to the medical profession. Experimentation on animals date back to asearly as 500 BC, making this form of medical validation one of the oldest knownto humans. It is not only one of the oldest but one of the most informative. Scientists use animals in medical research to study how the body works and howto diagnose, cure, and prevent disease. Researchers also use animals for teststo try to protect the public from dangerous chemicals, (Day, 13) such as thoseincluded in detergents, bleach, and other household products. When live animalsare used in experimentation, this practice is called vivisection.Order now
Animals areused in many instances because their bodies often react in a similar way to thatof a humans. Although animals have been used in medical research for numerousyears it was not until the early 1920’s that it became more prominent. It wasat this point that the introduction of using live, un-anesthetized, animals tostudy toxic effects on an increasing array of drugs, pesticides and foodadditives was introduced. After this great advance in medical research theresults of using animals grew with leaps and bounds.
In 1970 this process peakedwith the use of millions of animals. Since then, according to the USDA’sAnimals Welfare Enforcement, 1,267,828 animals were used for medical purposes in1998, which is more than a 50 percent decrease since 1970. Although this is adrastic drop in animals used there have been many medical advances; virtuallyevery medical break through this century has come about as the result ofresearch with animals. (Office of Technology) Of the many animals used forexperiments, about 90 percent of the animals used are rats, mice and otherrodents. Animals such as these are used for two reasons, one because they arereadily available upon request, and two because they are cheap which helps aidthe large cost of animals experimentation.
Although it has been proven, that inmany cases, rats and mice are not an accurate subject to test medicines on;their popularity has only grown larger. Mechanize (a travel sickness drug)caused severe deformities in rats, but not in humans, whereas Thalidomide (asedative drug) caused no reaction in rats but cause deformities in humans. Thisis only one of the many cases where mice and rats have been found as faulty testsubjects. With the wide range of animals that are available, the tests the areused on them are even vaster.
The tests are broken down into many differentcategories, which allows scientists to zero in on certain areas of testing andto specify results. The largest and most useful area of testing is calledToxicity Testing. In toxicity tests, animals are generally exposed to chemicalsin ways that are meant to mimic human exposure, by ingestion, inhalation, skincontact and contact with the eyes. The type of animals used in this fieldinclude rodents, dogs, cats, fish, birds (chickens, hens, pigeons) rabbits,frogs, pigs, sheep, and primates. Toxicity testing is aimed at providinginformation, which can be used to attempt to protect society and the environmentagainst the harmful effects of chemicals. (Boyd, 184) Eye irritancy tests, thelargest and most controversial area in toxcity testing, began in 1920.
It wasintroduced because soldiers were exposed to mustard gas in World War I, theireyes began to burn and some lost sight. To understand what the effects of themustard gas more clearly scientist used rabbits as their test subjects. Theywould force they eyes of the rabbit open and let mustard gas fester for days,they would then compare their findings to the effects on humans. After thisfirst introduction to the benefits of eye irritancy tests its use began moreuseful. This method of toxicity tests is now used to test everything fromshampoo to pesticides.
Anti-vivisection activists consider this type of testingthe most cruel because it directly damages a vital part of an animals body. Also, it is very hard to repair the eye due to its extreme sensitivity. TheDraize Test is used to measure the harmfulness of ingredients contained inhousehold products and cosmetics. It is much like they tests that were used totest mustard gas, but it is much more scientific and in ways slightly crueler.
The Draize testing involves dripping the test substance into a rabbit’s eye andrecording the damage over three to twenty-one days. Scientists use rabbits forthese tests because rabbits’ eyes have no tear ducts, so they are not able towash away the irritant placed in their eyes, and their eyes are large enough forany inflammation to be clearly visible. Reactions can vary from a slightirritation to complete blindness. The rabbits are confined in restrainingdevices to prevent them from clawing at the injured eye. All of the animals areusually killed at the end of the testing period, or “recycled” intotoxicity tests. A less painful area of testing is the sub-acute and sub-chronictests.
These tests last between one and three months and use slightly less toxicdoses then toxicity tests. The backs of the animals are shaved and the substanceis placed under a tight plastic wrap, which is replaced with a clean wrap everytwo to five days. The results from these types of tests help scientistsunderstand what harmful effect could happen to humans if came into contact withthe chemicals that are in our everyday life. Although it seems as though itwould hard to torture an animal on purpose, it happens more often in the medicalfield than is believable.
It is for this reason that there have been many lawsintroduced to the medical research field. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has beenamended several times. The latest amendment was passed in 1990, which concernedthe welfare of guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits. It covers the humane handling,care, treatment, and transportation of these small laboratory animals. There isalso a requirement that states that all animals must be given adequateveterinary care, must be separated by species and all experiments must be givenwith a minimum of pain.
Anesthesia must also be given when there is a chance ofpain, and if the pain that the animals endured was of too high of a standardthen the animal must be euthanasia. With such strict requirements that need tobe enforced there are a few laboratories that do not abide by every law, whichcreates cruelty and inhumane conditions for animals. There was a case in NewYork, too many animals had been packed into cages when beginning transported toresearch facilities, and they suffered from cramping and over heating. The lackof adequate ventilation and extremes in temperature caused death to over 55percent of the guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits on their way to the researchlaboratory.
This is not an isolated case, every year in Britain alone millionsof animals suffer and die in laboratory experiments. They are burnt, scalded,poisoned and starved, given electric shocks and addicted to drugs, they aresubjected to near freezing temperatures, reared in total darkness from birth anddeliberately inflicted with disease like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, oralinfections, stomach ulcers, syphilis, herpes and AIDS, (Sharpe, 13) they alsohave there eyes surgically removed, their brains damaged and the bones broken. In military research in the United States animals are gassed poisoned withcyanide, shot with plastic bullets and deliberately wounded with high velocitymissiles. It is treatment like this that makes the question of weather animalresearch should be continued come about. Every day in North America animals arepoisoned blinded and burned in consumer product tests. Products ranging frommascara, shampoo and nail polish to oven cleaner, ink and children’s toys aretested on animals.
When animals are used to further medical research it can besomewhat justified, but when animals are used to test cosmetics it is consideredcruelty to animals. In many cases animals have been made to consume huge amountsof cosmetics, particularly lipsticks and waxes. In one experiment rats wereforced fed up to twenty-five g/kg of several lipstick formulations, the humansequivalent to four pounds. For research such as this there is alwaysalternatives. Especially is the research is being done for purely superficiallyreasons. The best alternative to substitution of animal research today iscomputer program.
In the past few years scientist have been able to furthercomputer programs to the point in which they can almost mimic the human body andits complicated functions. When using laboratory animals there is always theissue that their body structure is not close enough to the human body to be usedto predict the outcome of medicine on the human body. In most cases this is nota valid concern but in a select few cases it has been frighteningly true. History’s most infamous drug disaster left 10,000 crippled and deformed. Theculprit was thalidomide, marketed initially as a sedative by German scientists.
Its clinical acceptance was based on an apparent lack of toxicity testing. Animals involved in testing could tolerate massive doses in routine testswithout ill effects, but when the drug was introduced to the public it caused areaction with the nervous system of small children, harming them for life. Although there is a great amount of controversy behind animal research and ithas been brought up time and time again that animal experimentation should beabolished, the is the undeniable fact that without it there would be so muchthat the medical field would be lacking. It is hard to say where we would be ifwe never had introduced animals into medicine. One thing is for sure, we wouldhave lost millions of people to diseases that are now curable. Without animalresearch Polio would have killed thousands of unvaccinated children in this yearalone, there would be no insulin, no control on high blood pressure, nochemotherapy, and no anesthesia resulting in painful medical procedures.
Measlesis another childhood infection preventable by vaccination, by introducing avaccination in 1968, the numbers of children infected dropped drastically. Alsodeaths from heart disease has fallen twenty four percent in men and fifty onepercent in women, a tremendous improvement. (Sharpe, 45) Other benefits tohumans include bone marrow transplantation, cyclosporin and other anti-rejectiondrugs. One of the largest fields in which animals are used for experimentationis in cancer research. In 1918 Japanese scientists produced cancer on a rabbitsear by painting it with tar, and a new ear in cancer research began. (Sherry,75) The research that followed was used to fight, understand and try to controlthe conditions of tumors that cause cancer, and to also learn how and why theygrow and spread.
The development of chemotherapy was tested on rodents, monkeysand rabbits in 1950. Forty years later, in 1990, scientists began closing in onthe genetic and environmental factors that lead to breast cancer, which is theleading killer of American women between the ages of 35-54, the main speciesused in these experiments were fruitflies, mice and rats. (History of MedicalDiscoveries and Advances website, http://www. amprogress.
org/history. htm, 1999)Although cancer has not been cured completely the benefits that animalexperimentation have brought to this field of research is without a doubtamazing. Now, thanks to epidemiology we now know that 80-90 percent of cancersare preventable. (Sharpe, 173) In 1950 scientists used rats and mice todiscovery DNA, which is what determines individual hereditary characteristic. Also in this same time scientists experimented on rats, rabbits and monkeys todevelop tranquilizers.
We now use tranquilizers to reduce hyperactivity, anxietyand tension. In 1970, by using monkeys and armadillos treatment foe leprosy wasdeveloped, as well as measle prevention. Not only do humans benefit from theresearch done on animals but also so do the animals themselves. Many of thedrugs and procedures that have been of importance for humans are of equaleffectiveness in animals.
The attempt to produce vaccines against animal’sdisease began almost as early as that of humans. Over half of the veterinarymedicine used today originated from medicine used on humans, such as the vaccineformed for feline leukemia. Animal organ transplantation has also been furtheredby human experimentation on animals. There is so much that is entailed whenusing animals in research everyone must be pleased.
As with ever issue in theUnited States today not everyone can ever be pleased, and that is also the truthwith animal experimentation. Without it people would be sick and dying, but withit animals are dying to save our lives. The only way that it could be completelycut out of the medical industry is if humans began to voluntarily donate theirbodies for experiments, the chances of that happening are slim to none. So theoptions need to be addressed, should people die from diseases and faultymedicines or should animals die to save our lives? It is hard to say weatherthis issue will ever be solved.
It can be said though, that all people havebenefited from animal experimentation at one point in their life or another. Weather that instance is in a surgical procedure, of the safety that is promisedwhen we use a shampoo. Either way everyone has had a safer and more healthilylife thanks to the animals that have sacrificed their lives for ours.